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Board of Trustees Information: Trustee Descriptions and Roles

First I will describe the job of a Trustee in my own succinct and simple terms, and then follow it with a complete and official description. The official description segment is softened in text size because of the sophisticated and jargon-filled content. Also in this section are the individual job descriptions of the Administrators to our University, mostly senior staff. I think you will find these useful, should you attempt to carry out a project that requires cooperation and awareness on the part of the school staff. I recommend you carry out such projects. So, job descriptions-


The members of the Board of Trustees oversee the University while it is run by the President and senior staff. To do this they utilize their experiential expertise, passion and financial resources. They are ultimately responsible for the direction and performance of the University. The board votes on major (board level) issues that guide the overarching direction of the University, as well as on issues that affect the simple and present operating policy. Examples of decisions range from the approval of Tenure for a faculty, to the decision to undertake a new fundraising campaign, the phasing out of SAT’s as an admissions standard, or an extra purse of money for a certain department, all the way down to approving the plan for revamped sidewalks. These votes allow the plans of the senior staff to go forward, or they halt them in their tracks. The Trustees also formulate initiatives on their own and delegate their application. They strategically plan, and often personally fund, the operation and betterment of SLU.

Official description (quoted out of Article II of the By-Laws of St. Lawrence University, as adopted by the By-Laws of St. Lawrence University May 20, 1995 and Revised Effective October 20, 2001) This is technical and long. It is also important and necessary. Think of this as a resource for reference and as a tool to understand the nature and meaning of Trustee-hood.

*note that the reader is asked to interpret the masculine pronouns in these articles as an equal reference to the feminine under the third of item of the Article I, General Provisions of the St. Lawrence Charter and By-Laws.

 Article II

The Board of Trustees: Powers and Memberships The Board of Trustees (hereinafter referred to as “the Board”) shall have general control and supervision over, and ultimate responsibility for, the affairs of the University and the conduct of its activities.

  • The Board shall consist of 40 members, of whom 36 shall be designated term trustees and four named in honor of Delos McCurdy, one of two graduates in the first class to be graduated (1865) and Sarah Elmira Sprague, one of the first two women to graduate (1866). As used in these by-laws, the phrase “entire” Board means the full number of members thus provided for, without regard for vacancies. Term trustees shall be elected for six-year terms, and McCurdy/Sprague trustees for four-year terms (except as specified in section 7 of this Article.) The term of office of all trustee elected to fill a vacancy shall take office immediately upon election and shall serve for the unexpired portion of the term to which his predecessor was elected
  • Members of the Board of Trustees who were elected under the designation alumni trustee will remain so designated until the expiration of their term or future amendment of these by-laws by the Board of Trustees.
  • No person shall be elected a trustee who shall have attained his seventieth birthday. Unless an exception is granted in a particular case by vote of the Board, trustees in office shall retire automatically on the June 30 next after their seventieth birthday, even though their terms may not have expired, and any resulting vacancy shall be filled as provided in these by-laws.
  • The board of Trustees’ Committee on Trustees shall engage the Alumni Executive council in an annual process of identifying and recommending alumni candidates for consideration by the board of Trustees to fill future trustee vacancies. The Committee on Trustees and the Alumni Executive Council shall jointly determine said process.

5. Two McCurdy Sprague trustees shall be elected by vote of the Board at the earliest feasible meeting following the adoption of this by-law, and thereafter a replacement for each McCurdy Sprague trustee shall be elected at the Annual Meeting immediately preceding the end of his term. Each person shall serve one two-year term. Each eligible person shall have received a degree from St. Lawrence University no more recently than at the public Commencement two years previous to the time of election , nor later than ten years after admission to such degree. Persons so elected shall, after completion of their terms, be eligible to serve as a term trustee in accord with the requirements of election thereto.

6. The title of trustee emeritus may be granted by vote of the Board to any person who, in the judgment of the Board , merits such distinction by reason of his prior service as an active trustee for a period normally of not less than ten years . A trustee emeritus shall have all the rights and privileges of a trustee except that he shall not be entitled to vote at meetings of the Board.

7. Any trustee, except a Trustee emeritus, who fails to attend three consecutive meetings of the Board without excuse accepted as satisfactory by the Executive Committee shall be deemed to have resigned unless the Board rules otherwise. Any trustee may be removed from office for cause upon the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the entire board.

Executive Descriptions:

The Trustees are headed up by a Chair and a Vice-Chair. The office holder assumes the power to call meetings, votes, set the agenda and steer the dialogue. He is what Adam Casler is to Thelmo. He has a gavel and he uses it. The official job description is as follows:

“The Chair of the Board : shall preside at all meetings of the Board and of the Executive Committee, and shall have the powers, authority and duties which are customarily associated with this office or which have been granted by these by-laws or by action of the Board.”(page 8, SLU By-Laws)

I am not positive on all the powers that are “customarily” associated with the office of a Board chair, by I have found that is mean he facilitates and plans the meetings, and is often a purveyor of many administrative functions.

The “Vice Chairs” [of the Board of Trustees] shall perform such duties as may be assigned to them by the Board or by the Chair….” (ibid. hereafter

The President of the University shall be the chief executive officer of the University [the other officers include the Chair, Vice-Chair, Dean of Academic Affairs, the and Secretary and the Treasurer] and shall have all the powers, authority and duties which are legally or customarily associated with this office (that same language again—I am unsure of it’s exact meaning, I’ll try and find out for you) or which are granted by these by-laws or by action of the Board. He shall be responsible to the Board for the execution of the policies established by the Board; he shall report regularly to the Board on the affairs of the University and on his actions and recommendations with respect thereto; and he shall receive the council and direction of the Board on matters brought to its attention.

The President shall have charge of the management and discipline of the University and shall direct its operations and programs. He shall appoint, in conformity with established University policies, all members of the faculty; and, subject to the approval of the Board, he shall decide upon faculty promotions and awards of Tenure in accordance with such policies.

The Vice President and Dean [of Academic Affairs] shall be the chief academic officer of the University and shall be responsible to the President for the execution of educational policies and programs and for the general management and conduct of faculty affairs. In the absence of disability of the President, the Vice President and Dean shall act as President unless or until the Board or the Executive Committee otherwise directs.

The Vice President and Dean of Student Life and Co-Curricular Education shall be responsible for residence life, student activities and the University Center, co-curricular education, student leadership development, multicultural affairs, career planning, counseling services, campus security and safety, the student judicial system, and the University’s health services contract with the Canton-Potsdam Hospital. In addition, and very importantly, she will have joint responsibility for St. Lawrence’s First-Year Program, working, collaboratively with the Associate Dean of the First Year in matters pertaining to the residential component of the program. *(This description was written in 1998 and is currently being revamped as a search for a new Dean of Student Life is carried out his year.)

The Vice Presidents [of Advancement, Finance, Administrative Operations, Information Technology, Admissions] shall perform the duties assigned to him by the President. Such assignments may be changed or modified by the President at his discretion.” (specifics can be attained upon inquiry)

There are further, wholly conventional, descriptions for the both the Treasurer (Kathryn Mullaney) and Secretary (Michael Archibald) of the University.


The formal hierarchical structure of the Board of Trustees and the senior staff should not be taken at face value. This chart should be examined with an understanding that the flow of information (i.e. admissions results, student opinion and thoughts, results of studies from private consultants, facilities operations plans, information technology needs and expansion plans, the list is almost never-ending) comes from the bottom up. And the chair, Mr. Winston, does not have final say in decisions- no veto power or anything like that. Instead he facilitates the votes, and, alongside President Sullivan, decides what issues will reach the floor for vote and when.

Each Vice-President acts as a Staff Liaison of their respective committee and helps to set the individual agenda of their committee meeting alongside the Trustee Chairs. The Liaison often commands as much or more of their committee than the Chair and assistant Chair spots filled by Trustees. This is because they have the information, while the Trustees provide the guidance and expertise to make the sound, big-picture decisions that the staffers can then operate on.

I will include my official job description here as well, as it reads in the Thelomamathesian Society constitution:

The Student Delegate to the Board of Trustees shall:

  • Act as the primary liaison, alongside the President of the Society, to the University Board of Trustees.
  • Be considered an ex-officio member of the Executive Board.
  • Be able to attend all Board of Trustee Meetings, including meetings that may take place when the University is on hiatus for a semester/academic year break.
  • Report to the Senate the minutes and developments achieved at all Board of Trustee meetings.
  • Occupy one of the student seats on the University Priorities and Planning University Committee.
  • Occupy one of the student seats on the University Buildings and Grounds University Committee.
  • Represent the student body to the Board of Trustees, along with the President of the Society.
  • Formulate a report during the last quarter of her/his term to be handed to the incoming Student Delegate to the Board of Trustees, with the intention of assisting the incoming officer with acclimation to the position and its responsibilities.



Main Page: Board of Trustees

The Big Picture and Mission Statement

Job Descriptions of Trustees and University Officers

Board of Trustees Meeting Structure

Trustees of St. Lawrence University

Committees of the Board of Trustees (Including Current Members)